‘Dad, welcome back’: Advocate for deported veterans wins his own fight to return to the U.S.

‘Dad, welcome back’: Advocate for deported veterans wins his own fight to return to the U.S.

An activist and military father who has advocated for deported veterans as co-director of Unified Deported Veterans in Tijuana now gets to return back home himself. Robert Vivar “walked back to San Diego from Tijuana on Veterans Day,” nearly two decades after he was initially deported and had his life upended over a shoplifting offense, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Waiting for him on the U.S. side of the San Ysidro port of entry was his son, an Air Force and National Guard veteran,also named Robert Vivar. “They hugged,” CBS8 News reported. “Dad, welcome back to the United States, welcome back,” he cried.

“Thanks to a law passed in recent years that allows immigrants to challenge old convictions if they weren’t warned about potential immigration consequences before accepting plea deals, he was finally able to get the conviction undone,” The Union-Tribune reported

Vivar had been given bad advice by an attorney during his criminal case. He thought he had agreed to a rehabilitation program when, in reality, he’d agreed to “a charge that meant automatic deportation.” He would try to reenter the U.S., only to be again deported. Following a win at the California Supreme Court, Vivar’s legal team then made a successful case at the Board of Immigration Appeals to secure his return to the U.S. from Tijuana, where he’d been a forceful advocate for U.S. veterans deported after serving their country. Veterans have been deported penniless and with only the clothes on their backs.

”Sometimes one of the veterans he served would be allowed back into the U.S., and he would accompany them as far as the border allowed,” the report continued. “On Thursday, it was his turn.” Advocates were also there to greet him. Others congratulated him over social media.

“Despite not being a veteran himself, Robert has worked tirelessly to repatriate deported veterans and provide them with the tools and information they need to survive in Mexico—a country the majority of them barely know,” ImmDef wrote in a thread. “As we welcome Robert home, we thank him for all his dedication to bettering the lives of hundreds of migrants, deportees, and local communities in Tijuana and throughout the border regions of Mexico.”

Media on both sides of the border watching for Robert Vivar to cross back into the United States for first time in nearly a decade pic.twitter.com/1Q2F1ZeFr4

— Kate Morrissey (@bgirledukate) November 11, 2021

A military veteran and his father are getting quite the reunion on Veterans Day. It was decades in the making. It’s the one gift Robert Vivar wanted to give his son today. https://t.co/KElusXiTT7 pic.twitter.com/2kOsIVT7Vm

— KPBS News (@KPBSnews) November 12, 2021

With much delight we announce that Robert Vivar, who is portrayed in the @pdtmuralproject, has officially crossed into the US🇺🇸 amazing and uplifting news on such an important day as today. Felicidades @robgrpa! pic.twitter.com/itIkETkmQQ

— Lizbeth De La Cruz Santana (she/ella) (@lizbethdsantana) November 11, 2021

WELCOME HOME ROBERT! 🎉 After 8 yrs separated from his family, veterans rights activist & father, Robert Vivar is reuniting w/his family on #VeteransDay. He continues to forge a #NewWayForward fighting to create an opportunity to come home for other people who’ve been deported. pic.twitter.com/BeGIuDy7B5

— Immigrant Justice Network (@ImmJustice) November 11, 2021

#WelcomeHome Robert,” ImmDef continued. “We can’t wait to see the amazing things you will do for our deported veterans from the U.S. but for now, enjoy your family and the joy only being back home can give.”

Like Hector Barajas-Varela, Vivar promised to continue fighting for the right of deported veterans to also return home. Barajas-Varela, himself a veteran, founded the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana. He won his return to the U.S. in 2018The Union-Tribune reports Vivar “promised deported veterans and deported parents of U.S.-citizen children that he would be back to help them.” He went on to say in the report that his work “continues. We continue. Our slogan is, ‘Leave no one behind.’”

Because of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) sloppy record-keeping, it’s unknown exactly how many vets have been deported. The American Civil Liberties Union has estimated perhaps 200 veterans, while the non-partisan Government Accountability Office said ICE has put an estimated 250 veterans in proceedings, NBC News said in 2019. While President Biden announced plans to return deported veterans (and family members), Vivar wrote in a July 30 op-ed that his organization received an exiled soldier that month.

”We are asking President Biden to stop these deportations immediately,” he wrote in The Union-Tribune. “On behalf of military families and veterans, we want to send a message to the president. We salute his willingness to confront this politically complex issue. We have seen his compassion and respect toward all veterans, even our ‘forgotten’ deported veterans and military families. We are proud to support the effort in any way possible to enable our country to move forward with a plan that will bring our deported veterans home, reunite our families, and end the practice, once and for all, of deporting U.S. veterans.”

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